Are walnuts a dangerous drug?

January 10, 2012
Volume 09    |   Issue 02

Back in July, the FDA sent Diamond Foods a warning letter. What could Diamond Foods have done to deserve the wrath of the government agency? The company simply made truthful claims about walnuts. That’s right! The company said science has found that walnuts can reduce heart disease and cancer risk.

That’s all it took to get the FDA to take action. Now, if the FDA were consistent about their actions, this might be okay. But a new study found that the agency is anything but consistent.

The FDA has guidelines that govern drug marketing. This study, published in the journal Public Library of Science, found that drug-company advertisements in medical journals rarely comply with these regulations. In fact, of the advertisements for 82 products the researchers analyzed, only 18% of them were compliant.

The researchers looked at 192 advertisements for these 82 products. Only 15 of the products fully followed all 20 FDA Prescription Drug Advertising Guidelines in their advertisement. But that’s not all. It gets worse. More than half (57.8%) of the product ads failed to mention that their drug could cause a serious risk ... like death. Almost as many (48.2%) lacked verifiable references. And 28.9% failed to prove that they were effective.

Dr. Deborah Korenstein, lead author of the study, said, “The current system is not in the best interest of the health of the public.” But it is in the best interest of the drug companies. Dr. Korenstein showed just how good it is for these companies, “Marketing research has consistently shown that journal advertising is the most profitable form of drug marketing, with an estimated return on investment of five dollars for every dollar spent.”

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So why doesn’t the FDA go after the drug companies? Dr. Korenstein believes, “The limited resources of the FDA’s Division of Drug Marketing and Advertising are a major barrier to successful regulation of the pharmaceutical industry’s multi-billion dollar marketing budget.”

This may be true. But here’s the problem. The FDA found the budget it needed to go after a company telling the truth about its walnuts. Claims that would cause absolutely no harm to anyone. But it can’t find the budget to go after companies who falsify their ads and omit information that could severely harm – even kill – their users. Something doesn’t add up!

We cannot allow the FDA to avoid doing its job. If it doesn’t have the funds to go after the drug companies, then where is all the money going? Is it going into fighting walnuts and other natural foods and supplements? The FDA has used millions of dollars in past years to raid vitamin companies, whole food markets, and alternative doctors’ offices. All places where no harm has been done.

It’s time the FDA use its money to rein in those who do more damage to your health. Over 100,000 people die each year from drugs and only 18% of their ads comply with FDA regulations. I have never heard of anyone dying from eating a walnut. Who really needs that FDA warning letter?

Your voice of reason in Women's Health,


ScienceDaily, August 17, 2011.

Life Extension, July 2011.

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